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Be Aware of Rules When Buying a New York City Co-Op Apartment

"Good fences make good neighbors," wrote the poet Robert Frost in his elegant poem Mending Wall. The poem recognizes the need for proper and respectful distance among people who live next to each other.

That respectful distance is just as needed in a New York co-op apartment building as it is on a country lane in New England. In fact, it may be even more needed in New York, with people in such close proximity.

It is understandable, then, that co-op corporation in New York City often adopt many rules that seek to control what people may and may not do with the apartment units they purchase. But does that mean, as the owner of an individual unit, that you have to give in and follow the rules put forward by the corporation, even if those rules seem totally unreasonable?

Or, put another way, what rights do co-op corporations have to enforce the rules they adopt?

Co-Op Rules on Pets, Noise, and Other Issues

If you are interested in purchasing a unit in a New York co-op apartment, it is extremely important to review the co-op's rules and regulations prior to making a decision. A New York real estate lawyer can help you think through the issues that may arise and choose the option that best meets your goals.

One potentially troublesome issue is pets in the apartment. Are pets permitted in the building? If not, is there any accommodation for service dogs for people with various disabilities?

It's important to ask such questions up front, so that you have clarity. Many buildings do have a "no pet" policy. If you would like to have a pet, make sure to review those rules closely before you buy a unit. You may decide that you need to keep searching for your apartment elsewhere, because co-ops will enforce a "no pet policy".

Another potential issue, sometimes related to pets, is noise. You don't want to be stuck in a unit where you are bothered by others' dogs barking or by a musician practicing an instrument late in the evening. Understandably, most buildings have rules against excessive noise after 10 p.m.

Noise-reduction rules can also affect how you are able to use your apartment in other ways. For example, many property leases in co-ops require that at least 80 percent of the apartment floors be carpeted. The carpet cuts down the amount of noise emanating from your apartment, but also impacts on the discretion an apartment owner has as to the use of the space. Therefore, if you want exposed wood floors throughout your apartment without ever placing down area rugs or purchasing wall to wall carpeting, be mindful of the fact that if it chooses to, the co-op corporation has the right to enforce the "80% mandatory carpet rule", and will often do this if your downstairs neighbors complain about excessive noise coming from your apartment. Some co-ops will enforce this rule uniformly throughout the building, even without receiving any complaints from your neighbors.

How a New York Real Estate Lawyer Can Help

In short, co-op apartment corporations have rules and it's wise to be aware of them sooner rather than later. A New York real estate lawyer can review the rules with you before you purchase your apartment and help you reach an informed decision as to whether you should proceed with your purchase or keep on looking.

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